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Vocational Rehabilitation Success Story: George (Burt) Petley

October 18, 2017 - 9:54am

Note: In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), a State VR agency which receives funding from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration, is pleased to share Burt’s success story. 

Burt began his path to employment in a sheltered workshop in 2007, where he did packaging and sorting tasks. Burt’s fellow participants and supervisors said he was dependable and with the support of his sister, Christie, Burt had reliable transportation. While Burt sometimes had difficulty with decision-making, repetitive tasks were an area where he excelled.

In March of 2017, Burt and Christie attended a group meeting at the sheltered workshop with GVRA staff, who presented on Vocational  Rehabiliation  (VR) services. Sherry Harris, from GVRA’s Augusta office, and Janice Cassidy, from the Athens office, explained supported employment and job coaching can be conduits toward competitive integrated employment and greater personal independence. Sherry and Janice explained that, in an inclusive workplace, individuals with disabilities would have the opportunity to earn the same wages as their coworkers and would not necessarily have to sacrifice services they may receive through a Medicaid waiver. Burt also learned about GVRA’s Work Incentive Navigators, who help individuals determine how going to work impacts disability benefits.

George “Burt” Petley

After hearing about the big picture and the spectrum of VR services available, Burt left the sheltered workshop program where he had spent the past ten years. He applied for VR services in June of 2017, first enrolling in a program where he learned socialization and independent living skills and took classes like American Sign Language, pottery, cooking, woodworking, healthy living, social skills and employability. That experience not only proved to be a valuable training opportunity for Burt, but it also led to a job offer when he was hired as a Woodworking Associate. Burt now works 13.5 hours/week earning minimum wage refurbishing furniture and looks forward to working more than 20 hours/week by the end of the year.

According to Burt’s family, he is content as a woodworker. Janice Cassidy shared that “Working with Burt has been a collaborative effort, but in reality, he is truly the star of this story. It began with his simple desire to do something other than continue to work at a sheltered workshop where he had worked for 10 years. Yes, he was certainly given information, told of resources and received supportive services from those helping him. Ultimately though, the person who took the necessary steps to move forward toward achieving his work goal was Burt. He exemplifies GVRA’s definition of true success. He made independent choices for his life, gathered necessary information, sought out potential resources and acted on choices made to realize the goal he was working toward. We wish Burt continued success in his work.”

 

Chris Pope is a WIOA Implementation Team Facilitator in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ Rehabilitation Services Administration at the U.S. Department of Education.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Things People Say

October 12, 2017 - 1:00pm

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

 

Number One. “Did you know?”

They never complete the thought, as if just looking at him implies what they’re really asking. I ache to play dumb: Know what? That he would almost never cry as a baby and be a champion sleeper? That he would love to swim but hate to play soccer? That I could love him ‘til it hurts and still get so annoyed by some of his antics? As obnoxious as my brain screams for me to be, I simply answer “No. After losing the first one, I didn’t want to take any chances with this very wanted baby.”

The mention of my previous sorrow precludes them from saying anything directly about those tests, so I leave it at that. I resist ranting about warped concepts of perfection or the technologies the medical community pushes that are incapable of measuring the value of those born “dappled.” If I launch into my diatribe, their eyes glaze over as they nod in the faux agreement children give their parents when they just want the scolding to stop. I can always tell when they’re thinking, “I would have the test.” I couldn’t guess what they would do if it were positive.

Number Two. “My sister’s/cousin’s/brother-in-law’s/landlord’s daughter/nephew/classmate/neighbor is ‘like him’.”

What, rakishly handsome? Lucky them. A consummate flirt? Better watch out! The self-appointed town mayor, greeting every person or animal we see on the streets? Good luck getting anywhere quickly with such a gregarious kid.

I suppose it’s an attempt to connect, a way to say “he’s okay” because they know someone who knows someone who… But sharing an extra chromosome doesn’t make anyone like someone else any more than two people having green eyes does. Don’t tell me these six-degrees individuals are “like” each other. They aren’t.

Number Three. “He’s so high-functioning.”

Yeah, far more than I am at 3:00 a.m. “MOMMY!” “urgh…?” “WHY ARE YOUR EYES CLOSED?!” “I’m sleeping, baby.” “WHY?!” “unnnhhh…” “READ TO ME!!!!” (seriously?)

Number Four. “Funny, you can’t see it.”

What’s there to see? His almond shaped eyes that look through me as the spark of laughter flickering within them sears my soul? His cute little hands with that long crease across his palms holding mine, petting the cat, learning to write his name, wiping away tears when he’s mad? The orthotics helping reshape his desperately flat feet?

What exactly are you looking for that will legitimize him in your eyes? Maybe I should carry the envelope with the verdict handed down by some anonymous technician. Perhaps the letter from the state when the lab automatically reported his existence to the county health department “for statistical purposes.” What can’t you see? He’s a kid, growing up loved. What else are you looking for?

Number Five. “I’m sorry.”

You should be. You’ll never hear the thoughts he speaks to me with his smiling brown eyes as he tilts his forehead to rest against mine. You’ll never drink in the heat that radiates from his head or taste his soft hair on your lips. You’ll never be awakened (again) at 3:00 a.m. by the hot air from his mouth on your face as he whispers, “Mommy, I want snuggles.” You’ll never know how it feels to celebrate every jump forward in development that other parents take for granted, but when he finally does it, it’s a very, very large molehill.

You should be sorry that you can only see back in time. This is a new era with new opportunities and new ideas about potential and worthiness. I’m only sorry it’s taken this long and that we still have so far to go.

Number Six. “That’s awesome!”

Thanks, Brian—you are the right kind of friend. May everyone with a kid “like mine” know a man like you.

Number Seven. “I don’t know how you do it.”

I’m his mother. Still confused?

Things I Say:

“I’m so proud of you.” “Boy, you’re handsome!” “Why won’t you let me cut your nails?” “TURN THAT DOWN!” “Wanna go bowling?” “Sweetheart, don’t let the dog beg like that.” “Would you please put this stuff away?” “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off of you.” “No, I don’t want to smell your feet.” “I love you, my sweet angel. You’re my heart and soul, my love and my life.” “You know you drive me nuts, right?”

Number One Thing I Say. I’ve loved my son since before he was ever born. What else is there to say?

 

Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper (aka Jaz, Jazzy, the JazMaster, or Dude!), live in a cozy house of fur with two crazy dogs and two lazy cats. Their favorite activities include singing movie hits, dancing in the kitchen, snuggling and traveling the world together. Jessica is Director of Communication and Dissemination for the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and Resources for Access, Independence and Self-Employment (RAISE) projects with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

Learning Outside from the 2017 Green Strides Tour in Georgia

October 11, 2017 - 1:00pm

I had the honor of attending the Georgia Green Strides Tour 2017 with Andrea Falken of the U.S. Department of Education and Keisha Ford-Jenrette of the Georgia Department of Education, and numerous other national, state and local partners.  We rode a van to some of the school sites that had been honored over the years as U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. This year’s two-day tour focused on the theme “Taking Learning Outside,” and covered a wide range of approaches.

Our first stop, Pharr Elementary, had surveyed its teachers to learn their challenges in teaching and turned those into active, outdoors learning opportunities, which include hands-on outdoors learning modules to learn social studies lessons among the branches of a courtyard tree, various language arts rock gardens, as well as alphabet, word and numbers incorporated into garden pathways and signage.

At our second stop, Mason Elementary students were working toward answering the driving question of “How can we, as entrepreneurs, create a company to consistently produce enough to donate to the local community?”  Students used their extensive hydroponics and aquaponics lab to determine which growing method might yield the greatest output.  They also got dirty in an outdoor classroom pavilion and handicap-accessible raised garden beds.

Our third stop, High Meadows School, demonstrated its commitment to outdoor learning from its founding principles. Students take advantage of a large outdoor play area, “The Meadow,” featuring a tire swing, natural play areas for digging and tree climbing, outdoor boat and dragon constructions, monarch waystations, native plantings, a stick fort, a retired train car turned office space and playing fields in which the various grades learn cooperation and collaboration during all-school outdoors time.  Students also learn to care for goats, chickens and horses under the skilled guidance of a full-time animal husbandry instructor.

Ford Elementary was our last stop on day one and demonstrated a tremendous ability to sustain and even grow an outdoor learning program over more than 20 years.  Teachers explained how by letting students drive learning, there is always something new to discover and add.  Each year, students have studied various areas of their campus and evaluated how to make it a safer and healthier place to learn.  This has led to students creating numerous outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, a compost station, a boardwalk to the site where they test stream water, trails, chicken coops, as well as dozens of other smaller outdoor projects, utilizing nearly every bit of outdoor space.

Morningside Elementary kicked off day two, a day which featured the more urban schools in Atlanta. Students at this school demonstrated their mindful, sustainability learning through their drum circle, work with a master gardener and learning from local business partners who offer cooking demonstrations and taste testing in the outdoor amphitheater cooking station.

On limited land in an historic neighborhood, The Paideia School demonstrates a useful model for urban farming at campuses constrained by space.  The full-time urban gardener and several part-time staff lead students to farm neighbors’ who volunteer their unused lands and successfully produce food in the city.  How waste fits into this work is kept on the minds of these students with compost and recycling bins placed throughout the campus.  The school hosts an annual zero-waste dinner for the community and features an amphitheater, fire truck climbing structure, monarch waystations and fairy garden, among other outdoor learning tools.

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School leverages its outdoor space to teach about healthy, local foods and cooking. The dedicated chef and school farmer work with students to learn about how food is grown and prepared, the benefits of local purchasing and how sustainable, healthy nutrition impacts students’ bodies and minds.  Students’ palates are thoughtfully broadened and the menu is coordinated with the curriculum. Students took part in the publication of a cookbook with some of their favorite recipes.

At our last stop, Georgia Institute of Technology, a 2016 Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee, we learned more about GIT’s Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative, which is engaging students from all of the colleges on campus to give back to their community. Students have focused learning beyond the boundaries of their college campus and are using the skills they have of collecting data to engage the community in the solutions, such as how to reduce carbon emissions and study population diversity in the area.

 

Suzanne Haerther is Community Project Manager at the U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia.

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED Releases Secretary’s Proposed Priorities for Competitive Grant Programs

October 11, 2017 - 9:50am

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the Secretary’s proposed priorities for ED’s competitive grant programs and launched the 30-day public comment period. Once we consider the comments received and issue the Secretary’s final priorities, the Secretary may choose to use one or more of them in competitions for new grant awards this year and in future years. These priorities align with the vision set forth by the Secretary in support of high-quality educational opportunities for students of all ages.

The proposed priorities are:

  1. Empowering Families to Choose a High-Quality Education that Meets Their Child’s Unique Needs.
  2. Promoting Innovation and Efficiency, Streamlining Education with an Increased Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, and Providing Increased Value to Students and Taxpayers.
  3. Fostering Flexible and Affordable Paths to Obtaining Knowledge and Skills.
  4. Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens.
  5. Meeting the Unique Needs of Students And Children, including those with Disabilities and/or with Unique Gifts and Talents.
  6. Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education, With a Particular Focus on Computer Science.
  7. Promoting Literacy.
  8. Promoting Effective Instruction in Classrooms and Schools.
  9. Promoting Economic Opportunity.
  10. Encouraging Improved School Climate and Safer and More Respectful Interactions in a Positive and Safe Educational Environment.
  11. Ensuring that Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families Have Access to High-Quality Educational Choices.

 

For more information about these priorities and to submit comments, please follow this link to the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/12/2017-22127/proposed-supplemental-priorities-and-definitions-for-discretionary-grant-programs.

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Categories: Higher Education News

The Path Begins: Forest Kindergarten

October 10, 2017 - 1:00pm

It’s a rainy day in Walker County, Georgia. In most schools, this would mean a day indoors with children and teachers wishing they could be outside. At Gilbert Elementary, you can look out the window and see a group of kindergarteners, in lime green rain suits, splashing their way across the playground on their way to the forest. These students will spend the next two hours making mud pies, building boats from found materials and observing the differences rain makes in their environment.

Gilbert is home to two Forest Kindergarten classes. Rain or shine, hot or cold, the students spend half of their instructional day in the 300 acres of forest. The concept is not a new one. Kindergarten after all means “children’s garden,” but in the days of high-stakes testing and ever-changing standards, the name has come to mean something very different. Forest Kindergarten is a return to the original intent. Students learn to be creative, solve problems and build relationships with their classmates and their environment.

The Forest Kindergarten program at Gilbert is in its third year. The students are performing above their peers on grade level assessments, and they leave the program with the relationship skills, creativity and grit necessary to be successful in the future.

When these students leave Kindergarten, they continue to have opportunities for outdoor and environmental education. The Gilbert Elementary curriculum is built around year-long research projects at each grade level. Kindergarten students raise chickens. First grade has a pollinator project with the Tennessee Aquarium. Second grade does a native plant study with partner schools from around the state. Third graders are organic gardeners. In fourth grade, students manage the forest. They use trail cameras to track wildlife and work with an arborist. Fifth grade focuses on energy conservation and alternative energy. There is also an indoor aquaponics lab, the SPLASH Lab, and a school-wide recycling program.

Gilbert Elementary is proof that change can be made in a traditional public school. The school is 25 years old. There were no grants or outside benefactors, no changes in requirements from the state and no overhaul of the staff. With 87 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced priced lunch, the staff relied on hard work and small donations to make the vision for the school a reality. Gilbert was named a 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, earned STEM certification from the state of Georgia and been recognized as a Title I Reward School for High Growth, all while moving away from the teach-to-the-test mentality that is so prevalent in education today.

The vision is expanding across Walker County. Other Forest Kindergarten programs are being planned; outdoor education and gardening programs are sprouting up at several elementary schools; and Ridgeland High School’s STEM academy incorporates agriculture in their program. The goal is to create a cohesive vision across Walker County that begins with Kindergarteners splashing across the playground on a rainy day.

 

Matt Harris is Principal of Gilbert Elementary School.

Damon Raines is Superintendent of Walker County Schools.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Student Artists and Writers Spark a Celebration of Creativity; 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Winners Exhibits Open at ED

October 5, 2017 - 1:47pm


On Sept. 15, 2017, for the 14th year, the U.S. Department of Education opened the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibit of works by students from across the country, with a special exhibit this year of winners from Harris County (Houston), Texas. Presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and founded in 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the longest-running and most prestigious award program for teenagers in the U.S. This year, 330,000 pieces of art and writing were submitted, and only 2,700 students were selected as national winners. Of those national winners, the Department has the honor of exhibiting 66 for the entire year, along with an additional 30 artists from Harris County, Texas, through Oct. 31, 2017.

A standing-room-only audience of 230 students, family members, educators, arts leaders, and ED staff joined in the celebration. Featured ED speaker Jason Botel, acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, summed up the value of arts education from his perspective: “Through these exhibits at the Department of Education, and the opportunities your schools provide, we can gain a better understanding of each other.”  Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance, pointed out that many past winners are contributing immensely through their talents in other fields because of their success in the Scholastic competition: “If you want to be a human rights activist or an educator or an entrepreneur,” she said, “we talk to lots of people in those fields who also point to this experience of winning a Scholastic Award as having been seminal and essential to them.” 2016 National Student Poet Joey Reisberg, now a senior at the George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, Maryland, recited two of his poems, giving us perhaps a reason for the arts: “So much in this life is so unnoticeable— ” (from Lamedvovniks, The Thirty-Sixers).

2017 Scholastic winners in art and writing, with, in front row (l to r), Virginia McEnerney, Joey Reisberg, and Jason Botel.

Following the ceremony, the Herb Block Foundation, which awards Scholastic winners for their editorial cartoons, held a workshop for the students.

The student artists and writers made clear that their educators were instrumental in helping to define themselves as artists. Mt. Vernon (Virginia) High School’s principal Dr. Anthony Terrell and art teacher Sally Gilliam, along with 25 current students, came to celebrate award recipient Jaron Owens. Gilliam shared that, when the award announcement was made, “[Jaron] jumped out of his chair and told me that he didn’t realize that he could be a serious artist. At that moment he realized that he did have artistic talent.” Terrell spoke of the impact of the event on the students from his school: “These students are now inspired to make more meaningful artwork because next year their work could be featured here.”

The parents noted that, without great teachers, their children may not realize their talents. Grace Sanders, artist of an untitled photograph, confessed that she didn’t think her photo would win because, to her, she was just splattering paint on her face. But she submitted the photo because her teacher saw something special in it. Grace’s mom said, “Grace likes to hide all her power and beauty in the dark” and that she was grateful this award gave her the confidence to talk about her work.

We had the opportunity to talk with other student award winners in the shows, who shared these reflections about their works:

“I had a vision and just went for it. It took me about three or four months to create the piece. The wiring took me four hours.” Virginia Dragoslavic, NSU University School, Davie, Florida, on her ceramic vase.

“My friend had a hard childhood. The bottom [of my drawing and illustration] represents her broken past filled with depression and darkness. As you move up, the piece starts to lighten. It is the representation that she could finally see her beauty.” Edward Bustos, Langham Creek High School, Houston, Texas

“My [writing portfolio] was heavily influenced by my environment. It is about race, identity, and who you are and who you have become.” Zainab Adisa, Pittsburgh CAPA School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

“My [editorial cartoon “A”] was inspired from a prompt from a literary arts magazine looking for pieces about what holds people back. I thought about stress from pressures of homework, grades, college applications, and student life. ” Evie Polen, Gaston Day School, Gastonia, North Carolina

Evie Polen won a Gold Medal for her editorial cartoon, “A,” portraying the stress of high school.

“My [drawing and illustration] is based on a Scottish proverb, “You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying above your head but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” Allison Maeker, Klein Oak High School, Spring, Texas

The national show will remain at the Department through July 2018, and the Harris County exhibit will remain through October 2017.

Franklin Nwora, Kipp Academy Middle School in Harris County, with his winning digital art piece, “Heaven’s Rain,” pictured on the right.

 

Morgan Bassford is an intern from American University in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Chareese Ross is a student art exhibit program associate and editor in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo at the top: 2017 Scholastic winners cut the ribbon to formally open their exhibit.

You can view additional photos from the event here. All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Leslie Williams.

 

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at Jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit

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Categories: Higher Education News

Understanding Teachers Make “All the Difference” for a High School Student with Dyslexia

October 4, 2017 - 1:00pm

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.

A teacher can make the difference between a good day and a bad one.

Actually, they can make or break a child’s entire school year by understanding what accommodations in a 504 Plan or an individualized education program (IEP) can do to help a person like me who works every day to overcome the impact of dyslexia, dysgraphia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

I think I am lucky to have been surrounded by teachers who worked hard to make sure I was able to be as successful as my peers.

I have had a 504 Plan since the fourth grade. It’s supported me through elementary school, middle school and now into high school.

At the beginning of the year, I introduce myself and my accommodations through email. I think it’s important for my teachers to know why I benefit from something that most of the other kids in my class don’t use. The game changers for me include:

  1. Extra time
    Dyslexia makes me read slowly and work hard to decode words. This means that it takes me more time to take tests. Knowing that I can work hard and answer the questions correctly at my own pace is very helpful for me. I would like to be able to show my teacher what I know.
  2. Read on demand
    Reading and spelling are harder for me than my classmates. I can decode almost any word after my remediation; it just takes me some time to do it if it’s a harder word. If I am really stuck, I would like to ask for help to have the word or phrase read to me. It makes me way more comfortable in class to know that if I get stuck, my teacher will know that I really need the help.
  3. Small group testing
    It helps to be on my own or in a smaller group. If I am taking a test with the class I might get to the third question and someone next to me is finished with the test because they can read it faster. I’d like to be able to focus on the content and do my best.
  4. Technology
    I use my iPad to ear read (text to speech) everything I can. Eye reading is tiring for me. Sometimes, I use an app to change a handout to a readable PDF and then ear read it, if I need to. Normally, I just eye read the handouts. My iPad also has an app that will let me record the classroom lecture, if I need it. I don’t access the curriculum exactly like my peers, but the system in place right now works really well for me.
  5. Teacher notes
    I am dysgraphic, too. That means it is hard for me to put my thoughts onto paper, quickly. I learn best by listening to the teacher first and then practicing what I have learned. It is very hard for me to listen and copy things from the board or write things down as the teacher is talking. I take notes, but I miss a lot. The teacher’s notes help me make sure that I don’t miss anything when I am studying.
  6. Advanced notice when called on to read in class
    This accommodation makes me feel comfortable in class. It feels terrible if I think I might be called on to read out loud without knowing what I am going to read. If my teacher wants me to read something, they’ll just tell me the night before and I will practice first. I am a good reader now, but I still get nervous when I have to read out loud. Messing up on a word like ‘began’ feels really bad in a classroom full of my classmates. That’s what dyslexia will do to me.

With the help of my parents, my teachers and my accommodations, I’ve created a successful learning environment for myself. Because I need to work very hard to achieve the academic success I’ve had, I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate my teachers who have made an effort to understand me and my accommodations.

Teachers really do make all the difference!

 

Carter Grace Duncan is a freshman in a Northern Virginia public high school. She is a youth advocate for Decoding Dyslexia Virginia who enjoys sharing her knowledge with students with disabilities about how accommodations in school can help create a pathway to academic success.

(Cross-posted at the OSERS blog.)

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Categories: Higher Education News

12 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid

October 2, 2017 - 8:00am

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college or career school that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction. We’ve got you covered! Here are some common myths—and the real scoop—about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

MYTH 1: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income; most people qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest federal student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA form, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA form. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

MYTH 2: The 2018–19 FAFSA® form launches on Jan. 1.

FACT: The 2018–19 FAFSA form launched on Oct. 1. You should submit a FAFSA form as early as possible because some states and schools have limited funds.

MYTH 3: I should use my 2017 tax information to fill out the 2018–19 FAFSA® form.

FACT: You must use your 2016 tax information to complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form. (The requirements changed last year.) It doesn’t matter if you or your parents haven’t filed 2017 taxes yet, because the 2018–19 FAFSA form doesn’t need that information. You won’t have to update your FAFSA form after filing 2017 taxes either, because 2016 information is what’s required. If your financial situation has changed since 2016, complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the tax information it requires (2016), and then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss the change in your situation. They can make updates to your FAFSA information if warranted.

MYTH 4: I support myself, so I don’t have to include my parent’s info on the FAFSA® form.

FACT: This is not necessarily true. Even if you support yourself, live on your own, or file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA form asks a series of questions to determine your dependency status. If you’re independent, you won’t need to include your parents’ information on your FAFSA form. But if you’re dependent, you must provide your parents’ information.

If you’re a dependent student, find out who is considered your parent for FAFSA purposes. (It’s not as obvious as you might think.)

MYTH 5: I should wait until I’m accepted to a college before I fill out the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Don’t wait. You can start now! As a matter of fact, you can start as early as your senior year of high school. You must list at least one college to receive your information. You SHOULD list all schools you’re considering even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form.

You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do. If you want to add another school after you submit your FAFSA form, you can log in at fafsa.gov and submit a correction.

The schools you list will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of aid you may receive.

MYTH 6: If I didn’t receive enough money for school. I’m just out of luck.

FACT: You still have options! If you’ve received federal, state, and college aid but still find yourself having to fill the gap between what your financial aid covers and what you owe your school, check out these 7 options.

MYTH 7: I should call “the FAFSA® people” (Federal Student Aid) to find out how much financial aid money I’m getting and when.

FACT: No, you’ll have to contact your school. Federal Student Aid does not award or disburse your aid, so we won’t be able to tell you what you’ll get or when you’ll get it. You will have to contact the financial aid office at your school to find out the status of your aid and when you should expect it. Just keep in mind that each school has a different timeline for awarding financial aid.

MYTH 8: There’s only one FAFSA® deadline and that’s not until June.

FACT: Nope! There are at least three deadlines you need to check: your state, school, and federal deadlines. You can find the state and federal deadlines at fafsa.gov. You’ll need to check your school’s website for their FAFSA deadline. If you’re applying to multiple schools, make sure to check all of their deadlines and apply by the earliest one. Also, if you’re applying to any scholarships that require the FAFSA form, they might have a different deadline as well! Even if your deadlines aren’t for a while, we recommend you fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any aid.

MYTH 9: I only have fill out the FAFSA® form once.

FACT: You have to fill out the FAFSA form every year you’re in school in order to stay eligible for federal student aid.

MYTH 10: I can share an FSA ID with my parent(s).

FACT: Nope, if you’re a dependent student, then two people will need their own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form online:

  1. You (the student)
  2. One of your parents

An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your own personal information on ED websites such as fafsa.gov.

If you’re a dependent student, your parent will need his or her own FSA ID to sign your FAFSA form electronically. If your parent has more than one child attending college, he or she can use the same FSA ID to sign all applications. You’ll need a unique email address for each FSA ID.

Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Don’t give your FSA ID to anyone—not even to someone helping you fill out the FAFSA form. Sharing your FSA ID could put you at risk of identity theft and could cause delays in the FAFSA process!

MYTH 11: Only students with good grades get financial aid.

FACT: While a high grade point average will help you get into a good school and may help with academic scholarships, most federal student aid programs do not take grades into consideration when you first apply. Keep in mind that if you want to continue receiving aid throughout your college career, you will have to maintain satisfactory academic progress as determined by your school.

MYTH 12: It costs money to submit the FAFSA® form.

FACT: Absolutely not! You NEVER have to pay to complete the FAFSA form when you go to fafsa.gov. If you’re paying a fee, you’re not on the official government website.

So what’s next?

Go to fafsa.gov and fill out the application. If you applied for admission to a college or career school and have been accepted, and you listed that school on your FAFSA form, the school will calculate your aid and will send you an electronic or paper financial aid offer telling you how much aid you’re eligible for at the school.

 

Mia Johnson is a Management & Program Analyst at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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The post 12 Myths About the FAFSA® Form and Applying for Financial Aid appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

How to Fill Out the FAFSA When You Have More Than One Child in College

September 29, 2017 - 8:00am

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need? How many FAFSAs do we have to complete?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA®) form until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs here.

Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each of your children’s FAFSA forms.

Each student and one parent need an FSA ID and each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2018–19 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before January 1, 1995, or can answer “yes” to any of these questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.

Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA form to another so I don’t have to re-enter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. On the confirmation page, you’ll see a hyperlink that says, “transfer your parents’ information into a new FAFSA.” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and click that link.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his/her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

 

You’ll then see the alert below confirming that you want to transfer your information to another FAFSA.

 

Once you click “OK,” a new window will open allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right and enter your child’s information.

IMPORTANT:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA form says “you” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the left side of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re on a student page (blue) or a parent page (purple).

 

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information pre-populated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!

NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA form and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSA forms.

I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA form?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSAs.

How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.

Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute towards the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that a parent’s annual ability to pay doesn’t change as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all of your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

Number of dependent children in college full-time Each child’s EFC 1 $10,000 2 $5,000 3 $3,333 4 $2,500

Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs schools based on family income, visit the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Getty Images

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Categories: Higher Education News

Lifelong Learning: A Roadway to Success

September 28, 2017 - 12:54pm

Photo credit: Heidi Markley Photography

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (September 24-30, 2017) is a big opportunity to come together as a field to celebrate adult education and to raise awareness of the 36 million adult learners across the nation who are in need of assistance.

Of the 36 million adult learners, the U.S. Department of Education’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) program, enacted as Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), serves 1.5 million adults each year under. WIOA is the primary federal program that provides foundation skills to those who are below the postsecondary level and English literacy instruction for out of-school youth and adults over the age of 16.

Education is and continues to be the pathway to success. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) supports programs through WIOA funding that assist adult students in acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to become productive workers, parents and citizens—and that help them transition to postsecondary education and lifelong learning and training.

Among its many efforts, OCTAE has long participated in visits to programs across the country that exemplify the work of programs that support the diverse needs of adult learners.

Highlighted here are two students whose stories represent both their successes and those of programs that supported them.

Paul “Reggie” Bryant (Photo credit: Heidi Markley Photography)

Paul “Reggie” Bryant, age 68, shown at left and with his diploma at the top of this post, attended the Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School (AoH), and recently gave the keynote address at his graduation, in which he recognized his peers and their accomplishments. In his address, Reggie shared with the audience that he had spent most of his life just miles away from the Academy of Hope but “the journey to graduation was a long one.” Like many adult learners, Reggie has exceeded the age of a typical high school graduate. But his story—which includes serious battles with addiction, brief periods of incarceration, and a misdiagnosed learning disorder—are not unfamiliar to the teachers supporting these students’ efforts and the students enrolled in the Academy, many of whom share similar journeys and accomplishments.

When Tiffanie, age 62, who graduated from the Goodwill Excel Center, was a senior in high school she experienced a family tragedy leading her to isolating herself from her regular life routines. She left high school and began working. She struggled to subsist, living paycheck to paycheck. Now a mother, Tiffanie has emphasized the value of an education to her daughter—and returned to school. She shared the following: “I wanted to provide more for her and I knew education was the path for that.”  She has since graduated from the Goodwill Excel Center and is now attending the University of the District of Columbia, studying Early Childhood Development—with the goal of becoming a teacher.

As these two student stories exemplify, the work of programs across the nation are making a profound difference in the lives of adult learners. These learners are able to be more solvent financially and to care for their families, be more actively engaged in their communities and as citizens, and are better able to continue to sustain their competitiveness and employability in a changing marketplace. Unfortunately their successes are the exception since one in six adults in the U.S. lacks basic reading skills and cannot read a job application, understand basic written instructions, or navigate the Internet.

Tiffanie’s decisions and her accomplishments will continue to affect her daughter. Large-scale international and national surveys of student achievement reveal that children with parents who have lower levels of educational attainment tend to have fewer socioeconomic advantages and score lower on academic assessments and those whose parents have higher levels of educational attainment often have greater socioeconomic advantages and score higher on academic assessments. Non-traditional students, like Tiffanie and Reggie, serve as powerful role models and exemplars for the power of lifelong learning.

As these two adult students’ stories suggest, individuals have a diverse range of opportunities available to them in which they can explore leaning opportunities, whether it is through the completion of a degree or via libraries, online courses, such as massive open online courses (MOOC), professional development programs, podcasts and other types of learning options.

In sum: “[E]ducation is life—not merely preparation for an unknown kind of future living… The whole of life is learning, therefore education can have no endings. This new venture is called adult education not because it is confined to adults but because adulthood, maturity, defines its limits…” (Lindeman The Meaning of Adult Education. 1926: 4-5).

Are you a lifelong learner with a story to share? OCTAE would appreciate hearing from you, and possibly featuring your story in a future blog post.

Joseph Perez is a Management and Program Analyst in the Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

September 28, 2017 - 8:00am

Congratulations! You submitted your 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form! Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:

1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and click “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC, in most cases, is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college.  Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

    Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
    Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100% of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10%—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered. 3. Apply For as Many Scholarships as You Can

As I mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

4. Be On the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2018–19 FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1, 2017. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aid, not the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, use the College Scorecard. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines. 5. Make FAFSA® Corrections If You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about 3 days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID, and then click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

NOTE: Parents of dependent students cannot initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID, clicking “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

Sandra Vuong is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Photo by Andrew Jones, Department of Education.

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The post 5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 27, 2017 - 8:00am

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these steps:

1. Create an account (FSA ID).

An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child.Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional, but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov.
  1. Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start A New FAFSA.”
  2. Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “Enter the student’s information.” Do not choose the option on the left, “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.”
  3.  

  4. Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
  5. Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
    2018–19 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
    2017–18 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.
    Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2017–18 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form after.

    Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal? If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should “Start A New FAFSA.”
  6. Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.

IMPORTANT: The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student. Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information. When in doubt, the banner on the left side will indicate whether you’re on a student (blue) page or parent (purple) page.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section.

Here’s where you’ll enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent.

In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

5. Answer the dependency status questions.

In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.

  • These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
  • If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip step six.
6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information.

Are you divorced? Remarried? Here’s a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form:

For specific guidance, visit the “Reporting Parent Information” page on StudentAid.gov.

________________________________________

7. Supply your financial information.

In this section, you’ll first be asked to provide parent financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added. The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.” Choose that option and follow the prompts.

NOTE: Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA® form, the information transferred from the IRS will no longer be displayed, but you will get a confirmation message letting you know that the transfer was successful. You’ll also know which items have been transferred from the IRS because you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in place of the answer fields. You’ll still need to answer all other required questions.

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

NOTE: If you need to save and exit your dependent child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.

8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you and your child sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID. If your child is not present, after you sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log into fafsa.gov to sign and submit his or her FAFSA form.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

 

 

________________________________________

You’re finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

 

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

September 26, 2017 - 8:00am

Need to fill out the 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form but don’t know where to start? I’m here to help. Let’s walk through the process step by step.

TIP: Ready to fill out the FAFSA form? Make sure you avoid these 12 common FAFSA mistakes.

1. Create an account (FSA ID).
  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for the account verification process before you can use your new FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.

IMPORTANT: Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, even each other.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov.

The 2018–19 FAFSA form will be available Oct. 1, 2017! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds for financial aid. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

Go to fafsa.gov or click on the button below to get started.

TIP: We recommend that the student start the FAFSA form using the instructions below. It makes the application process much easier.

  • If you are the student: Click “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.” Then enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
  • If you are the parent: Click “Enter the student’s information.” Then provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”

 

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2018–19 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.
  • 2017–18 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2017–18 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2018–19 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.

Create a save key.

  • Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.
3. Fill out the Student Demographics section.

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents: Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student. Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information. When in doubt, the banner on the left side will indicate whether you’re on a student or parent page.

 

4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent.

In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

5. Answer the dependency status questions.

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section.

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.

Read specific guidance about reporting your parents’ information as a dependent student. Learn what to do if you are not able to provide parent info due to special circumstances.

7. Supply your financial information.

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added. The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.

 

Note: Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA form, the information transferred from the IRS will no longer be displayed, but you will get a confirmation message letting you know that the transfer was successful. You’ll also know which items have been transferred from the IRS because you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in place of the answer fields. Please make sure to answer all other questions.

8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form.

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, you won’t need to provide it again on this page, but if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve the FSA ID.
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • Here’s what you should do if you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.

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The post 8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

12 Common FAFSA® Mistakes

September 25, 2017 - 8:00am

The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form will be available Oct. 1, 2017! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as it’s available on Oct. 1. Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form

I hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for federal grants such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It takes little time to complete, and there are “Help and Hints” provided throughout the application.

2. Not Using the Correct Website

The official FAFSA website is fafsa.gov. That’s “.gov”! You never have to pay to complete the FAFSA form. If you’re asked to provide credit card information, you’re not on the official government website.

3. Not Filling Out the FAFSA Form as Soon as It’s Available

If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP after Oct. 1. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early.  Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP. The 2018–19 FAFSA form requires 2016 tax information, which you should already have—so there’s no excuse to wait!

Which brings me to…

4. Not Filing the FAFSA Form by the Deadline

As I said, you should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible after Oct. 1, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline, and some deadlines are very early. To be sure you are being considered for the maximum amount of financial aid, fill out your FAFSA form—and any other financial aid applications required by your state or school—before the earliest deadline.

5. Not Getting an FSA ID Before Filling Out the FAFSA Form

It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? Well, because when you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent (if you’re considered a dependent student) will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you both want to sign your FAFSA form online. DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other! Doing so could cause problems or delays with your financial aid.

Don’t wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

6. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form

When you go to fafsa.gov, you will be given two options to log in:

1) Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID

2) Enter the student’s information

If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application.  This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.

 

IMPORTANT: We recommend that you, the student, start the FAFSA so you can choose the option “Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID.” However, if you are a parent who is starting a FAFSA on your child’s behalf, you should use the option “Enter the student’s information” because you should not know your child’s FSA ID..

7. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)

Note: The IRS DRT will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017, with additional security and privacy protections added.

For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2016 tax information into the 2018–19 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!

 

Beginning with the 2018–19 FAFSA form, the information transferred from the IRS to your FAFSA form will no longer be displayed online. When your information is successfully transferred, you won’t see your tax information. Instead, the data fields will display the message “Transferred from the IRS.”

 

 

8. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA form, you’ll want to read each definition and each question carefully; sometimes the FAFSA form is looking for very specific information that may not be obvious.

Here are some items that have very specific (but not necessarily intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA:

  • Legal guardianship—To determine your dependency status, the FAFSA form asks, “Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents—even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardians. Also, you’re not your own legal guardian.
  • Parent—The FAFSA form has very specific guidelines about which parent’s information needs to be reported. Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with who claims you on their taxes.

    On the FAFSA form you may be asked, “As of today, what is the marital status of your parents?” If your biological parents are divorced, but the parent with whom you lived more over the last 12 months is remarried, answer “remarried” and enter information about that parent and his or her spouse. If your biological parents are divorced and only the parent with whom you lived less is remarried, or if neither of your parents are remarried, answer “divorced.”
  • Number of family members (household size)—The FAFSA form has a specific definition of how your household size or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
  • Number of family members in college—Enter the number of people in your (or your parents’) household who will attend college at the same time as you. Don’t forget to include yourself, but don’t include your parents in this number, even if they’re in college. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.
  • Net worth of investmentsWe have outlined some specific items that should and shouldn’t be included as investments on the FAFSA form. For example, a college savings plan such as a 529 account is considered an investment*, while the value of the home in which you live and the value of your retirement accounts are not. We highly recommend that you read this to make sure you are reporting this information correctly.
  • Taxable college grants and scholarships—For this question, you report only college grant and scholarship amounts that were reported to the IRS as income. That means you should not use the amount listed on your 1098-T; you should report the amount listed on your tax return. Do not use the number in the adjusted gross income (AGI) field. Here are the tax line numbers you should reference when asked this question. If you didn’t file taxes, you should enter zero.

* If you’re a dependent student, the value of any college savings accounts should be reported as a parent asset, not a student asset.

9. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see when people complete the FAFSA form:

  • Confusing parent information with student information—I know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA form for their children, but remember, it is the student’s application. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter your (the student’s) information. If the form is asking for your parent’s information, it will specify that in the question.
  • Entering information that doesn’t match your FSA ID information—After you create an FSA ID, your information (name, Social Security number, date of birth) is sent to the Social Security Administration to be verified. If you then enter a different name, Social Security number, and/or date of birth on the FAFSA form, you’ll receive an error message. This is often the result of a typo or mixing up student information and parent information. To avoid delays in completing and processing your application, triple-check that you have entered your information correctly. If you encounter this error, here’s how you can resolve the error.
  • Amount of your income tax: Here, the FAFSA form is asking for your assessed income tax liability, not the amount of income tax withheld and not your AGI. I know this can be complicated. To avoid this common error, either transfer your tax information to the FAFSA form using the IRS DRT, or click here to find out which tax line number you should refer to when answering this question. (Note: It depends on which IRS form you filed.)
10. Not Reporting Required Information
  • Parent information—Even if you fully support yourself, pay your own bills, and file your own taxes, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If so, you must provide parent information on your FAFSA form. Dependency guidelines for the FAFSA form are determined by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. Find out whether you need to provide parent information by answering these questions.If you’re considered a dependent student and don’t provide parent information, your FAFSA form may not be processed, you may not receive an Expected Family Contribution, and/or you may qualify for unsubsidized loans only.
  • Additional financial information—If you follow our recommendation and use the IRS DRT, a lot of the financial information required on the FAFSA will be automatically filled in for you. However, the IRS DRT doesn’t populate all the financial questions on the FAFSA form; some numbers, including many items in the “Additional Financial Information” section, must be manually entered. If you used the IRS DRT, you’ll see that some boxes in that section are prechecked and the fields prefilled with “Transferred from the IRS.” Those items were available to be transferred from the IRS. However, other items, such as “Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans” and others, cannot be transferred from the IRS. You must manually review each item in the list, check the box if it applies to you, and enter the appropriate amount by referencing your relevant financial records. In the case of payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans, you can find that information on your W-2 form.

 

11. Listing only one college

This is a mistake unless you are applying to only one college or already know where you’re going to school. Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ALL colleges you are considering to your FAFSA form, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.

Note: If you’re a resident of certain states, the order in which you list the schools on your FAFSA form might matter. Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.

12. Not Signing the FAFSA Form

So many students answer every single question that is asked, but fail to actually sign the FAFSA form with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons—maybe you forgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID—so your application is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”
  • If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one.

If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, there’s an option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA form has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA form online.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Photo at the top by Getty Images.

The post 12 Common FAFSA® Mistakes appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Education Opportunity Migrates to Nation’s Farmworkers

September 20, 2017 - 1:16pm

If you’re a high school student in rural America, it’s not always easy to get to school. You may have to travel a lot farther than you would in the city. But what if you live in a rural area and also need to travel with your family to go to work on a farm? How would you get to high school? Could you go to college?

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Migrant Education (OME) recognizes the challenges that migrant families face and oversees two competitive grants that provide high school and college opportunity for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The High School Equivalency Program (HEP) funds selected two-year community colleges, four-year universities, and nonprofit community organizations that provide high school equivalency classes tailored to the needs of these students. The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) grants money to community colleges and universities to offer migrant students their first year of post-secondary education.

Acting Assistant Secretary Jason Botel presents an award to CAMP student speaker Sandra Reyes (center) while Project Director Jennifer Nunez looks on (photo credit: Mike Johnston).

“These HEP and CAMP programs change lives for many generations,” said Lisa Ramirez, director of both OME and the Office of School Support and Rural Programs, as well as the daughter of migrant workers and a former migrant worker herself. “To my knowledge, there is no other program that is set up the way HEP and CAMP are set up, and the support activities that we provide to our students are unique.”

Nationwide in 2016, 2,405 migrant and seasonal farmworker students earned a high school equivalency diploma through HEP, and 1,475 migrant and seasonal farmworkers completed their first year of college through CAMP.

This past August, OME held its annual HEP/CAMP Directors Meeting, at ED headquarters. Approximately 130 grantees attended the two-day conference to receive OME technical assistance and collaborate. The agenda featured two student speakers, one of whom graduated under a HEP grant and one who is studying in a CAMP-funded college program.

Yolanda Ambrosio Barrientos (right) and a co-worker pause at the plant nursery where they work. (In the photo at the top of this post, Ms. Barrientos is shown arriving with her family for her high school equivalency graduation.)

Students Yolanda Ambrosio Barrientos and Sandra Reyes spoke about their respective experiences in HEP and CAMP. Barrientos arrived in the U.S. without a high school diploma and not speaking English. While a migrant farmworker, she was subjected to violent domestic abuse in her marriage. However, Barrientos persevered and earned her high school equivalency diploma under HEP at Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina.

Reyes overcame performance anxiety and challenges in family relationships while she was a migrant farmworker and is now pursuing college studies under CAMP at Eastern Washington University in the state of Washington.

Maria Fister, director of Wake Tech’s HEP, arranged for Barrientos to speak at the Washington meeting. “Something that makes our program stand out is that we establish a really close connection with the students,” Fister said. “Students make a commitment not only to their personal education goals but to the program.”

“We don’t want students to stop with the high school equivalency. We want them to go to college, to get better employment,” Fister said.

Ramirez explained why having student speakers is important. “The tenor of the students’ speeches reminds us that every day, we’re not just pushing paper; that what we do impacts lives,” she said. “Yolanda’s speech reminded us that not all students are young children and that being a lifelong learner is critical. And someone can survive domestic abuse and still be an English-language learner, and the progress doesn’t stop there.”

 

Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist with the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Photo at the top: Yolanda Ambrosio Barrientos arrives with her family for her high school equivalency graduation at Wake Tech’s partner school Wayne Community College, where Yolanda attended classes. Wake Tech HEP has collaborations with community colleges across North Carolina (photo credit: Maria Fister).

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED to Celebrate Constitution Day

September 14, 2017 - 11:35am

In remembrance of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, and in recognition of the Americans who strive to uphold the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, including Federal employees, the Congress enacted a law on December 8, 2004, that requires educational institutions receiving Federal funding to hold an educational program for their students pertaining to the United States Constitution on September 17 of each year, except when it falls on a weekend.  Congress also designated September 17 as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Additionally, Federal agencies are required to provide information about the Constitution to their employees to commemorate that day.

ED will commemorate the day this year with a special program at headquarters in Washington, DC, on September 18.  All employees are invited, and the program will be streamed on EDStream. This year’s Constitution Day program will feature historians who will discuss issues related to the First Amendment during World War I. Our speakers are:  Edward Lengel, Historian for The White House Historical Association, and Tony Williams, a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.  Julie Silverbrook, Executive Director of The Constitutional Sources Project (ConSource) will serve as moderator. Phil Rosenfelt, Deputy General Counsel for Program Services at ED, will introduce the speakers and provide observations on the relationship of constitutional issues in World War I and their relevance to the constitutional issues of today.

When planning each year’s program, we look to history and current and recent events for themes.  This year marks the Centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I (WWI).  The topics addressed at the time of WWI have great relevance today.

The appropriate role of the Federal government and the curtailment of personal liberties such as freedom of speech were issues in WWI that stand out.  During the war, Congress passed legislation limiting speech and instituted a draft to raise an army to fight the war.

Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. These Congressional actions made it illegal to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States.” These laws made certain types of protest, for example, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 20 years in prison.

In fact, more than 2,000 people were indicted under these laws during the war.  The laws were challenged in the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and courts generally upheld the restrictions as appropriate during wartime.  So, free speech and our basic freedoms were very much topics in WWI.

The second WWI-related issue was forced conscription. The draft led many to oppose the war.  In fact, a major Supreme Court case, Shenk v. United States, was decided that combined free speech and opposition to the draft.  The Supreme Court said:

A conspiracy to circulate among men called and accepted for military service under the Selective Service Act of May 18, 1917, a circular tending to influence them to obstruct the draft, with the intent to effect that result, and followed by the sending of such circulars, is within the power of Congress to punish, and is punishable under the Espionage Act, § 4, although unsuccessful.

In addition, on August 2, 1917, Oklahoma tenant farmers opposed to WWI and conscription revolted in what became known as the Green Corn Rebellion.  According to the Oklahoma Historical Society:

The men planned to march to Washington and end the war, surviving on the way by eating barbecued beef and roasted green corn, the latter giving the rebellion its name. The rebels began burning bridges and cutting telegraph lines on August 3, but they soon faced hastily organized posses, which halted the revolt. Three men died in the conflict, and more than four hundred others were arrested. Of those, 150 were convicted and received federal prison terms of up to ten years.

Freedom of speech and the press and the right to peaceably assemble, all guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, were important rights and issues then, and continue to be important now. The discussion of the Constitution issues during World War I will give new insight into the issues of today.

 

Anthony Fowler is Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Categories: Higher Education News

ED Expands Hurricane Help Website

September 11, 2017 - 3:58pm

The United States Department of Education has expanded the Hurricane Help page on its website. Originally created in response to Hurricane Harvey, the site now includes a page for information related to Hurricane Irma as well as a page containing general hurricane information.

The pages for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma contain links to federal resources, including the latest information from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security as well as government-wide activities related to each of the hurricanes (from the General Services Administration) and other information for those impacted by these two storms. Each of the hurricane help pages also provides lists of resources specifically related to education.

All of these sites are continually updated so users are urged to continue checking for the latest.

The post ED Expands Hurricane Help Website appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

3 FAFSA Deadlines You Need to Be Aware of

September 7, 2017 - 1:00pm


Ah, deadlines. The sworn enemy of students across the nation. When you’re busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life in whatever time you’ve got left, it’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. All of a sudden, your 10-page term paper is due in an hour, and you’re only on page 5 (with the help of 26-point type and triple line spacing). We get it.

Nevertheless, we’re here to point out a few critical deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss: those to do with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. By submitting your FAFSA form late, you might be forfeiting big money that can help you pay for college.

Here are those three deadlines:

1. The College Deadline

The first type of deadline comes from colleges themselves, and—spoiler alert—it’s typically pretty early. These deadlines vary from school to school, but they usually come well before the academic year starts. If you’re applying to multiple colleges, be sure to look up each school’s FAFSA deadline and apply by the earliest one.

Many of these FAFSA due dates are priority deadlines. This means that you need to get your FAFSA form in by that date to be considered for the most money. Many colleges have this date clearly marked on their financial aid pages. If you can’t find it, you can always call the school’s financial aid office.

If you’re worried about gathering information to complete the FAFSA form in time to meet this deadline, don’t be. You can apply as early as Oct. 1 (instead of Jan. 1 as you may have done in the past). This earlier submission date will give you more time to complete the FAFSA form before college deadlines approach, which means more time to compare schools. You’ll use earlier (2016) tax information, so there’s no need for estimates.

Didn’t think it could get any easier? The earlier launch date coincides with many college application deadlines, so go ahead and apply for schools and for federal aid at the same time. If you haven’t figured out where you’re applying yet, don’t worry! You can still submit the FAFSA form. Just add any school you’re considering, even if you’re not sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can always add or remove schools later.

2. The State Deadline

The second deadline is determined by your home state. Starting on Oct.1, you can check your state’s deadline here. Some states have hard deadlines and other states have suggested deadlines to make sure you get priority consideration for college money. There’s also a group of states that offer first-come, first-served financial aid. If your state’s deadline is “As soon as possible after Oct. 1, 2017,” you should get your FAFSA form submitted ASAP. Many of these states award financial aid funds only until they run out, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances.

3. The Federal Deadline

This last deadline comes from us, the U.S. Department of Education, aka the FAFSA folks. Our only time constraint is that each year’s FAFSA form becomes unavailable on June 30 at the end of the academic year it applies to.

That means that the 2018–19 FAFSA form (which will be available on Oct. 1, 2017) will disappear from fafsa.gov on June 30, 2019, because that’s the end of the 2018–19 school year. That’s right; you can technically go through your entire year at college before accessing the FAFSA form. However, a few federal student aid programs have limited funds, so be sure to apply as soon as you can. Also, as we said, earlier deadlines from states and colleges make waiting a bad idea.

Why so many deadlines?

All these entities award their financial aid money differently and at different times. What they all have in common, though, is that they use the FAFSA form to assess eligibility for their aid programs. So when a college wants to get its aid squared away before the academic year starts, it needs your FAFSA form to make that happen. If you want in on that college money, you need to help the college out by getting your information in by its deadline. The same goes for state aid programs. Additionally, many outside scholarship programs need to see your FAFSA info before they will consider your application. If you’re applying for scholarships, you need to stay on top of those deadlines, too.

What happens if I miss the deadlines?

Don’t miss the deadlines. Plan to get your FAFSA form in by the earliest of all the deadlines for your best crack at college money. By missing deadlines, you take yourself out of the running for money you might otherwise get. Some states and colleges continue awarding aid to FAFSA latecomers, but your chances get much slimmer, and the payout is often less if you do get aid. It’s just better not to miss the deadlines.

If you miss the end-of-June federal deadline, you’re no longer eligible to submit that year’s FAFSA form. Did we mention not to miss the deadlines?

Across the board, the motto really is “the sooner the better.” So turn in your FAFSA form and that term paper as soon as possible (without the 26-point type). Apply by the earliest deadline. Get your FAFSA form done today!

Drew Goins is a former intern with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid. Likes: politics, language, good puns. Dislikes: mainly kale.

Nora Onley is a Management and Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2018–19 FAFSA® Form

September 6, 2017 - 1:00pm


If you need financial aid to help you pay for college, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. The 2018–19 FAFSA form will be available on Oct. 1, 2017. You should fill it out as soon as possible on the official government site, fafsa.gov.

It’ll be easier to complete the FAFSA form if you gather what you need ahead of time. Below is what you’ll need to fill it out.

1. Your FSA ID*

An FSA ID is a username and password that you can use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education (ED) websites. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA process on fafsa.gov. We recommend creating your FSA ID early—even before you’re ready to complete the FAFSA form—to avoid delays in the process.

For step-by-step instructions, watch How to Create Your FSA ID.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT create an FSA ID on behalf of someone else. That means parents should not create FSA IDs for their children and vice versa. Doing so may result in issues signing and submitting the FAFSA form and could lead to financial aid delays. (Also, it’s against the rules to create an FSA ID for someone else.)

To summarize:

  • Anyone who plans to fill out the 2018–19 FAFSA form should create an FSA ID as soon as possible.
  • If you are required to provide parent information on your FAFSA form, your parent should create an FSA ID too.
  • Because your FSA ID is equivalent to your signature, parents and students each need to create their own FSA IDs using their own, unique email address and phone number. Parents should not create an FSA ID for their child and vice versa.
  • In some situations, you may need to wait up to three days to use your FSA ID after creating it. If you want to avoid FAFSA delays, create your FSA ID now.
2. Your Social Security number*

You can find the number on your Social Security card. If you don’t have access to it, and don’t know where it is, ask your parent or legal guardian or get a new or replacement Social Security card from the Social Security Administration. If you are not a U.S. citizen, but meet Federal Student Aid’s basic eligibility requirements, you’ll also need your Alien Registration number.

3. Your driver’s license number

If you don’t have a driver’s license, then don’t worry about this step.

4. Your 2016 tax records*

In case you didn’t hear about the changes we made to the FAFSA process, beginning with the 2017–18 FAFSA form, we now require you to report income information from an earlier tax year.

  • On the 2018–19 FAFSA form, you (and your parents, as appropriate) will report your 2016 income information, rather than your 2017 income information.
  • Since you’ll already have filed your 2016 taxes by the time the FAFSA form launches, you’ll be able to import your tax information into the FAFSA form right away using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). (No more logging back in to update after filing taxes!)
  • Not everyone is eligible to use the IRS DRT and the IRS DRT does not input all the financial information required on the FAFSA form. Therefore, you should have your 2016 tax return and 2016 IRS W-2 available for reference.

The IRS DRT will return with the 2018–19 FAFSA form on Oct. 1, 2017. The IRS DRT remains the fastest, most accurate way to input your tax return information into the FAFSA form. To address security and privacy concerns related to the IRS DRT, the tax return information you transfer from the IRS will no longer be displayed on fafsa.gov or the IRS DRT web page. Instead, you’ll see “Transferred from the IRS” in the appropriate fields on fafsa.gov.

  • You cannot use your 2017 tax information. We understand that for some families, 2016 income doesn’t accurately reflect your current financial situation. If you have experienced a reduction in income since the 2016 tax year, you should complete the FAFSA form with the info it asks for (2016), and then contact each of the schools to which you’re applying to explain and document the change in income. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA form if warranted.
  • You cannot update your 2018–19 FAFSA form with your 2017 tax information after filing 2017 taxes. 2016 information is what’s required. No updates necessary; no updates allowed.
5. Records of your untaxed income*

The FAFSA questions about untaxed income may or may not apply to you, but they include things like child support received, interest income, and veterans noneducation benefits. On the 2018–19 FAFSA form, you’ll report 2016 tax or calendar year information when asked these questions. Find specific details for parents and students.

6. Records of your assets (money)*

This includes savings and checking account balances, as well as the value of investments such as stocks and bonds and real estate (except the home in which your family lives). You should report the current amounts as of the date you sign the FAFSA form, rather than the 2016 tax year amounts.

Note: Misreporting the value of investments is a common FAFSA mistake. Please carefully review what is and is not considered a student investment and parent investment to make sure you don’t over- or under-report. You may be surprised by what can (and cannot) be excluded.

7. List of the school(s) you are interested in attending

Be sure to add any college you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet.

  • Even if there is only a slight chance you’ll apply to a college, list the school on your FAFSA form. You can always remove schools later if you decide not to apply, but if you wait to add a school, you could miss out on first-come, first-served financial aid.
  • The schools you list on your FAFSA form will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. They will use your FAFSA information to determine the types and amounts of financial aid you may receive.
  • If you add a school to your FAFSA form and later decide not to apply for admission to that school, that’s OK! The school likely won’t offer you aid until you’ve been accepted anyway.
  • You can list up to 10 schools on your FAFSA form at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.

TIP:  To be considered for state aid, several states require you to list schools in a particular order (for instance, you might need to list a state school first). Find out whether your state has a requirement for the order in which you list schools on your FAFSA form.

* If you’re a dependent student, you will need this information for your parents as well.

 

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Keeping the Promise in California: The California Affinity Group

September 5, 2017 - 1:00pm

When I wanted to know what an affinity group is, I turned to my affinity for the dictionary. Webster’s definition is “people having a common goal or acting together for a specific purpose.” By this definition, the California Affinity Group (CAG) is perfectly named. CAG’s members work in Promise Neighborhoods, Promise Zones, a Performance Partnership Pilot area, city governments, school districts, community organizations, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Education (ED) with the common goal of improving opportunities for people living in some of California’s most distressed communities.

On July 18 and 19, CAG held its first in-person peer exchange, on California State University, East Bay’s Hayward campus. While the group’s members had spoken via conference call, this was their first face-to-face meeting.

Dr. Carolyn Nelson, dean of the College of Education at Cal State, East Bay and principal investigator for Hayward Promise Neighborhood (HPN), said that Cal State, East Bay wanted to host the in-person meeting “because our university is shifting its role to being part of the community.” As Nelson explained, “We’re shifting how low-income, underrepresented communities see universities as inaccessible. We have a responsibility – being the most diverse campus on the mainland of the United States – that our students look like the students in the community.”

Melinda Hall, executive director of HPN, talked about her organization’s goal to “provide equitable opportunities for all the community members that we serve in the areas of safety, education and health.” Building on HPN’s work, Hayward was designated as a 2016 Promise Zone finalist.

HUD, the lead federal agency for urban Promise Zones, provides staff to the nation’s 14 urban Promise Zones. Erich Yost is HUD’s Los Angeles Promise Zone community liaison. “We’re engaged with aligning and targeting federal resources available across the federal government,” Yost said.

The peer exchange included visits to two community programs that receive HPN funding. “They were highlighted for the site visits to emphasize the need to keep middle-school students engaged over the summer in career-exploration,” said Hall.

The first visit was to the Eden Area Regional Occupational Program, which provides career and technical education classes in culinary science, criminal justice, medical careers, and construction.

The second visit was to the Chabot Community College Summer Youth Sports Program, a free program giving low-income youth an opportunity to participate in coached sports.

ED supports both Promise Neighborhood and Promise Zone work. As HUD’s Yost noted, “The U.S. Department of Education’s place-based initiatives team has been an invaluable resource for the Promise Zone initiative.” HPN’s Hall said, “I think U.S. Department of Education funding is important because it speaks to where the department’s priorities are.”

The participants found the peer exchange valuable. “Getting ideas from different parts of the state is really helpful,” said Hall. “There are some things that we could very easily implement here.”

Jaime Ramirez, a part of the technical assistance (TA) team assigned to the CAG, provided planning and facilitation support. After watching the group’s interactions, Ramirez said, “There’s something about getting together in person to get to know each other better. This is going to go a long way to share knowledge, wisdom, and best practices.”

Ramirez and the TA team will continue to facilitate and support CAG’s ongoing collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and application of best practices.

 

Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

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Categories: Higher Education News

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